Reviewed on PC
Management simulation games are one of my favourite types of games. Restaurants, farms, cities, theme parks, prisons, space colonies, I’ve played the lot. Something about the combination of pretending you have a successful career and being really pedantic about all the little details has, in the past, been extremely appealing to me.
Planet Zoo took up a significant portion of my gaming time when it was released last year, and into the early months of this year. I learnt all the ins and outs of buying animals, building them their perfect habitats, making sure my guests were happy and educated and that the zoo made money. The design aspect was more in-depth than I’d ever seen, to the point where it ended up getting really frustrating. Perhaps it’s just that 2020 has been exhausting and stressful, but the idea of spending hours getting pathways and walls just right to build even the most simple of buildings became completely uninteresting.
Then I stumbled across Parkasaurus, which is the management game the world needs right now. It is whimsically fun, brightly coloured, with mechanics that are just in-depth enough to get you hooked whilst not being overwhelming. Most importantly, it allows you to put hats on already adorable dinosaurs.
Parkasaurus has been in early access since 2018, and has just had its official launch. The premise is similar to any other zoo tycoon type game; you need to build a park to house dinosaurs, whilst making sure your guests are enjoying themselves and of course, aren’t eaten by any of the park’s inhabitants. You build each dinosaur an enclosure to suit them, making sure you pick the right biome and paying attention to the biodiversity of trees and rocks. They need the right amount of space, food, and privacy, but all these things can be found in neat little statistics by clicking on the enclosure.
New dinosaurs are hatched from eggs. Eggs come from the egg shop in town where they are, for reason, laid by chickens, but you also need certain fossils to get them. Fossils are acquired via a fun tetris like mini game that involves you taking the team of people you’ve hired at the park through portals to dig sites. Each team member has a certain number and pattern of tiles they can uncover, and by using them you can find the fossils you need.
Aside from your dinosaurs, you can fill your park with shops and food stands to keep your guests happy, as well as decorations to keep things looking nice. You can unlock new stuff for the park and exhibits through earning hearts by keeping your dinosaurs happy, and science points by having scientists working at a research station.
There are also plenty of details that keep the game feeling lighthearted and fun. You hire staff - scientists, veterinarians, janitors and security - by going through resumes in your office, which makes the process of picking your team feel more personal than simply clicking a button when you need an extra pair of hands. Also there’s the hats. You can buy hats from the hat shop or as rewards for completing different tasks in the game. Hats can be put on dinosaurs for different bonuses, so it is worth doing if the idea of seeing a t-rex running around in fez isn’t enough to win you over.
There are also two different modes to have fun with. The first is the world map, which is a campaign mode. It includes a tutorial and different parks around the world that need different problems fixing. This is great for new players, as each new park introduces a new element to think about and really helps get you to grips with the game. The second mode is the customise mode, which allows a more traditional sandbox style mode of play. It’s great for when you know what you’re doing, and want the freedom to create your own park from scratch.
The only problems I encountered whilst playing was that sometimes guests would ignore things like paths and fences, or just walk through furniture. Dinosaurs, particularly big ones, also seem to ignore each other and stand in the same space. But that’s the extent of my complaints about it, and luckily the game has a way of reporting bugs whilst you’re playing, so hopefully small issues like these will be resolved soon.
If you’re a management simulation fan, or are just looking for something light-hearted to play, I would recommend picking this up. It’s fun and bright, with all the best parts of management games and none of the details that bog you down. And did I mention you can put hats on your dinosaurs?